Keep Your Indoor Cat Behaving Like an Angel With These Simple Tricks
Setting the Stage for Your Kitty’s Play
Ideally, every one of our feline friends would have spacious outdoor access for play, but this isn’t always the case. Whether a question of location or safety, many cats live an indoor lifestyle, but this doesn’t have to mean an unfulfilled one. Around the world, proud families are finding creative ways to transform their habitats into kitty havens. Take, for example, this indoor play land:
We can’t all go to such extravagant lengths, but a little investment can go a long way. A suitable environment will engage your cat, contributing to her mental and physical well being. The way we incorporate play is an important and often overlooked aspect. With appropriate outlets for your little hunter’s enthusiasm, you may even save your couch or those fancy, new drapes.
But how can you provide an enriching environment without hiring a contractor? Try one of these quick tricks for a more feline-friendly play zone:
- Create a DIY scratching post! Wrap thick, sisal rope around exposed banisters or poles for a homemade and unobtrusive scratching post — you may even find your cat has a knack for climbing.
- Save those cardboard boxes! With a good utility knife and some imagination, you can even create a temporary kitty cardboard fort that is easily recycled afterwards.
- Give them a place to hide! Don’t have a cardboard box laying around? An old towel draped over some furniture can create an improvised hiding space where your cat can indulge in hide-and-seek behavior.
- Encourage your cats to play with their food! Rather than leaving food heaped in a dish for easy access, break out those puzzle feeders and make them work for a meal.
- Leave a few toys out! With convenient access to a few of their favorite toys, many cats are willing to entertain themselves.
Even the most extravagant setups are missing one essential ingredient — and it won’t cost you a dime. Of course, we’re talking about you!
Caution: Prolonged Play Time May Result in Excessive Cuteness
Let’s take a moment to talk about “interactive” play. Sure, many cats are perfectly capable of entertaining themselves. YouTube stands as a monument to these adorable paragons. But there’s an important social component to why animals play.
Play style falls into one of two categories:
- Object (or solo) play
- Interactive (or social) play
Playtime is a great opportunity to bond with your cat and learn more about her personality. Does she like to stealthily stalk ground prey? Perhaps she has a flair for the air? What about her hunting schedule? Is she an early bird or night owl? There are plenty of questions to ask, and with regular interactive play, you can discover a lot about your family’s furriest members.
And playtime isn’t just good for the cat. There are therapeutic benefits for people as well. Research has linked cat ownership with reduced rates of a range of ailments, such as cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and depression.
How to Keep Your Cat Engaged
Cats are smart, which means you have to be on your toes to keep them interested. Waving your toys around haphazardly wont do the trick. The best way to keep them engaged is to think like prey.
As the play session progresses, think of it as three stages of a hunt:
- Get her attention — entice her by moving the toy in a prey-like manner.
- Initiate the chase — once in pursuit the prey moves away from the hunter.
- Confirm the kill — after several minutes of (*ahem*) cat and mouse, let her win by capturing the toy.
- Some professionals recommend a success rate between 1:3 and 1:6 — winning too often ends in boredom, and not often enough ends in frustration.
- Reward with a treat (optional) — a small treat at the end of a play session mimics the natural progression of the hunt.
Estimates vary, but evidence suggests that as little as 30 minutes per day can have an immediate impact on a cat’s health and well being. This can easily be broken into shorter 10-15 minute segments to accommodate busier schedules. (Just don’t be surprised when you don’t want to stop playing.)
How do you make sure your cat gets enough play time? What are your favorite games to play with your furry friends? Share your tips and tricks!